U-Verse – More

Yeah, I still owe a full write-up, but there just isn’t time with the holiday madness.  I will do what I can for now, though.

Install:
Took about 5 hours.  Installer was friendly and seemed to know his stuff pretty well (ie – he had a good handle on the technology he was installing, not just where to plug the wires).  Being in an apartment makes installs interesting, but it all worked out well.  Quad is running from the basement up to the apartment, but I’m still getting over 25mb/s at the residential gateway (RG).  

First impression:
After being a Time Warner customer (or going with rabbit ears) for the past 10-15 years, it’s agony to learn a new channel lineup.  That is the worst of it so far.  I expected more lag when changing channels, searching for programming, going through the guide, etc.  There isn’t much.  The guide is a tad slow, but if the guide speed on Time Warner is a 7/10, this might be a 6 or 6.5.  Searching is quick and changing channels is generally faster than it was on cable, which is wild considering cable is streaming every channel at once.  The menus are nice looking and fairly intuitive.  Everything is easy to use.  I haven’t done much with it, but the interface for programming your DVR via web is great and will probably come in handy when on vacation.

First problem:
We got service on Sunday, but by the following Friday afternoon it was out.  No internet, no TV.  Called tech support, they almost immediately pushed me up to tier 2.  They had me troubleshoot a few things and ran some tests on their end and quickly decided to send a tech out.  It was in the evening (after work) and nobody was available that day so it would have to wait until Saturday.  I was fairly happy up to this point, as the support folks were pretty good.  Saturday I had an appointment from 12-2PM.  Around 1PM I got a call that the tech was running late.  He showed up around 2:30 or 3PM.  The kid was not terribly polite, stunk my apartment up with the smell of cigarettes and got dirty water on my carpet (the street/sidewalk was dry, so he must have walked through the snow for some stupid reason).  He was there for an hour going between the room with the RG, the basement and the box a few blocks away.  A second tech showed up around 4:30PM and the two of them were obviously stumped.  At 5PM, not a minute later, they promptly left and said another tech would have to come the next day.  He said I would get a call Sunday to come up with a time.

I’m not terribly patient, so I called tier 2 tech support and scheduled a time.  Again, I was given 12-2PM.  At 1:58PM I called customer service and asked if my tech was going to show up in the next 2 minutes.  They called over to dispatch and told me they were short on technicians and all appointments were delayed.  I asked if I was just supposed to have sat their all day waiting for a call and the girl with customer service momentarily said “yes” before chuckling nervously and saying she would call back over to dispatch to find a more definite time.  The answer I got was “I don’t know.” So it looked like another day down the tubes and we went about doing some cleaning around the house.  Got another call, maybe around 4PM from dispatch saying they were still trying to find me a tech and asking if I wanted to reschedule for another day.  I told them somebody needed to show up that day and I would be waiting.  Maybe around 5PM a tech showed up.  Much nicer guy than the punk from Saturday.  He did some tests, showed me on his equipment what the problem was and what the possible causes were.  Kept me updated the entire time.  By probably luck more than anything, he happened to tug on a wire in the wall where the RG was plugged in.  The wire came apart in his hand.  When stripping one of the incoming wires during install, the wire had been cut into and was barely connected.  Tech replaced the wire and we had service again! 

So a mixed experience with tech support, but they got the job done.

While we had no internet, however, I learned how to connect to the internet on my computer via my Blackjack.  The download speed is the same as the “express”(lowest price/speed) package through U-Verse, so I will probably drop the internet part of my service after a month or so.  Not that the internet service is lacking, but it’s an extra $20-25/month that the bill can shrink.

Later impressions:
I got a notice today… following HD channels will be added 12/17/07:
Animal Planet HD
Discovery HD
CNN HD
Science Channel HD
TLC HD
WGN HD
Versus HD/Golf Channel HD

Sure, it still doesn’t compete with Dish/Direct TV, but that’s more channel additions than Time Warner gave me in almost 2 years.  Plus, this along with other updates I’ve seen has shown that ATT/U-Verse is fairly dedicated to improving their product offering.

As for other things…

Picture quality on SD channels is great.  We used to record a lot of shows in HD because the picture quality on the SD version of the same channel was nearly unbearable.  Not the case anymore. 

Picture quality on HD channels is noticeably compressed.  I don’t mean that in an overly negative way, but you can tell that it is a lower quality feed than cable gave.  However, if given the opportunity to get the same product with uncompressed (or at least much higher quality) feeds for even as little as $10 more per month, I wouldn’t pay it.  It’s still a very nice HD picture on my 37”. 

NFL Network is definitely worth switching for.  I honestly don’t care about the analysis and talk and whatever other junk is on for 22 hours out of the day.  It’s worth it for things like “NFL Replay” (which I’m watching as I type this).  Games compressed into 30 minute chunks is fantastic.  Chargers/Titans is on right now.  I only saw about 3 minutes of that game because of the Packers being on at the same time.  I’ve already watched several good “mini” games that weren’t broadcast in my area.  Thursday Night Football is worth it.  Even though Gumbel is horrid, it’s fantastic to hear Collinsworth finally in the booth somewhere.  He adds so much valuable and timely insight.  He’s smart, quick, interesting and even funny at times.  Plus you get to go to all your buddies at work the next day and ask if they saw the game last night, followed by laughing at them for not being able to.  I’m pumped about replays of old Super Bowls once we hit playoff time.

Not sure what else to say for now.  Customer service is pretty typical ATT.  I’ve had some good experiences, but not enough.  I guess you can sum up their service comittment by just calling them.  They answer the phone with “how can I provide you with excellent customer service today?”  Only a company with terribly customer service would tell you they are going to take good care of you (because it’s much easier said than done).  However, the customer service is no worse than what I left with Time Warner. 

So in the end, I’m getting tons better SD picture quality, slightly worse HD picture quality, more HD channels, similar customer service, unknown reliability, some channels of subjective importance (NFL Network, Big 10 Network – no extra cost), seemingly a much greater dedication to adding channels/features for tons less money.  I’d call that a win.

Jay

Jay Ratkowski runs this joint, which is why his name is on the front door. You can find him elsewhere at Google+, Facebook, or Twitter

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Author: Jay

Jay Ratkowski runs this joint, which is why his name is on the front door. You can find him elsewhere at Google+, Facebook, or Twitter

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